Dengue incidence in India 300 times higher than reported: study

The number of dengue affected people in India could actually be almost 300 times higher than what India's ministry of health had reported, according to reports.

The conclusion has been made by the Indian Council of Medical Research - the government's primary body for all medical and scientific research.

According to the new study published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene, there were nearly 6 million more dengue cases in India than the official annual tally.

According to the government, there were on an average 20,000 laboratory confirmed cases every year. The new estimated results were, however, striking.

The study was conducted by researchers at Brandeis University's Schneider Institute for Health Policy in Waltham, Massachusetts, the INCLEN Trust International in New Delhi, and the ICMR's Centre for Research in Medical Entomology (CRME) in Madurai and was the first to use systematic empirical data to estimate both the disease burden and the direct and indirect costs of dengue in India.

The mosquito-borne disease's economic burden on the country totaled $1.11 billion annually.

According to Donald Sheppard, lead author of the study and a health economics professor at Brandeis University, the annual number of dengue fever cases in India was 282 times higher than officially reported. The researchers found that India had nearly 6 million annual clinically diagnosed dengue cases between 2006 and 2012, he added.

Researchers said they believed even that number might be low due to dengue reporting being better in the area they studied in the state of Tamil Nadu than in most other Indian states thanks to its well-established medical surveillance system, ANI reported.

The incidence of the disease is believed to be much higher in India than in any other country in the world and except for a slight dip in 2011, the incidence rate had grown steadily in recent years.

In 2013, India's National Vector Borne Diseases Control Programme reported that India had seen an annual average of 20,474 dengue cases and 132 dengue-related deaths since 2007. However, infectious disease experts believe those official numbers likely reflected only a small fraction of actual cases.

A major dengue outbreak occurred in 2013 with 55,000 reported cases, triggered largely by the heaviest rains in two decades.